Maybe that title is a bit dramatic, but the Bills needed this win to keep pace with the 6-4 Patriots, and Dolphins (and the Dolphins are actually ahead of the Patriots, since they won their head-to-head game). Besides that, the Bills are playing the fucking 3-6 Browns - who expects them to actually lose? Especially coming off of three losses in a row, you think the Bills could step it up (at home, I might add) against the Browns. I am already talking all this smack about the Browns, but let's not forget they are still the only team to beat the 9-1 Giants this season. But still...it's the Browns. So what happened to the Bills the last three weeks? Well, let's focus on their starting quarter back, Trent Edwards. Over the last three games, he has had 2 touchdowns, 5 interceptions, and 2 lost fumbles. Not exactly all-star caliber play. Last week the Bills didn't even trust him enough to throw close to a long ball, as he had no passing attempts of over 20 yards. Aside from Trent Edwards' play, the Bills had only had 3 offensive touchdowns over the last three games; that's simply not going to cut it in the NFL.
So what's the Browns deal? Their big-time wide receiver, Braylon Edwards leads the league with 13 dropped balls. Their starting running back, Baltimore Ravens great, Jamal Lewis, has the 2nd lowest yards per rush average in the league. Lewis still holds the second best rushing total for a season, in NFL history; it's not like this guy is out of his prime either. Not to mention they have a very inexperienced quarter back, in Brady Quinn playing in only his third NFL game, and second as a starter.
This obviously has the makings of a good game. I hope you noted my sarcasm. In any case, it's 27 degrees in Buffalo, so if they can have a packed house to watch this game, then I can do my best to endure it in the comfort of the indoors.
Trent Edwards starts the game off pretty well. And by well, I mean he's picked off twice on his first three pass attempts. The first interception was caused by a tip at the line by 350-pound nose tackle, Shaun Rogers of the Browns, while the second one was a poorly thrown ball intended for wide receiver James Hardy. The second interception really showed off the catching skills from line backer Andra Davis of the Browns, as he stretches out for it, catching it with his hands. This is the first time since the 1991 season that the Bills have an interception on each of their first two possessions. Nice work, Trent Edwards!
Quinn actually does have a decent start. He gets a bootleg called to use those legs early on, then a nice easy pass underneath to big running back Charles Ali. This could have been a big drive for the Browns, had Braylon Edwards not dropped an easy catch down field. Sure, I can say it's easy because I am not getting drilled by corner back Terrence McGee of the Bills, but I am also getting $0 for writing this article, while he is getting several thousand dollars to drop that ball. Rather than possibly scoring a touch down, the Browns settle for the 40 yard field goal. I will give Braylon Edwards a little credit, because McGee is playing him extremely well in the first quarter.
The only impressive thing about the Browns in this quarter is how hard their defense is cracking the Bills. Browns get a third interception off of Trent Edwards, as I suppose you could say he was intending to go for tight end Robert Royal, but after seeing the replay, you could make the case he was actually going for corner back Brandon McDonald of the Browns. Browns can only capitalize with another field goal off of this third interception.
Bills first quarter looks pretty grim: 3 interceptions off of 16 plays, and of course 0 points. This is the type of first quarter that only true football fans could stomach; saying it was tough to watch is an understatement. I've been more entertained peeling off the top Post-It off the stack. In a nutshell, this first quarter was about who could play worse. Even though Trent Edwards was the one with the 3 interceptions, you couldn't exactly say that Quinn was having a good game himself. Just all-around sloppy, undisciplined football.
The action starts to pick up a bit in the second quarter, as the Browns pitifully get their first first down of the game off of a Bills penalty on 3rd and 6. Then the Browns get a nice 13-yard reception from tight end Kellen Winslow off of a play action pass; easily their nicest pass so far, and is followed up with Braylon Edwards holding on (yes, he can catch) for a 19-yard grab. The difference this time around for Braylon Edwards was not that he didn't get drilled, which he still did, but this time around he caught the ball with his hands, rather than against his body. Jamal Lewis finally gets into the action with a nice rush to the outside, after straight-arming strong safety Donte Whitner and defensive back Bryan Scott of the Bills to the ground. That rush sets up a cool play for the touchdown, where Josh Cribbs lines up as a wide receiver, then comes in motion and gets the hand-off from Quinn to take in for the score. Quite an impressive drive of 13 plays, spanning 96 yards.
Bills come back with a fury! Back-to-back big runs by running back Fred Jackson - one for 19 yards, and the other for 17. Even though those runs were both very pretty to watch, the best running of this drive came off of a short dump pass to running back Marshawn Lynch. He took the ball from the left side of the field, with a series of cuts he makes linebackers Davis, D'Qwell Jackson and free safety Brodney Pool miss their tackles; he literally took four of the Browns secondary in with him for the touch down, as they tried their best to keep him out. That was 18 yards of pure highlight reel action. But most impressive of all...can you believe that we had touchdowns back-to-back?!
On the Bills next possession of the half, it was once again all their running backs. Jackson has a couple nice runs, including a 3rd and 4 off of the Wildcat formation (direct snap to the running back) for the first down. That play should have resulted in a loss of yards, but he pushed through the tackle of Davis, and dove forward for the first down. Another short dump pass to Lynch, where he breaks the tackle of line backer Leon Williams and runs out of bounds to intelligently stop the clock with 30 seconds left in the half. On 3rd and 6, Trent Edwards goes for a touch down pass, which should have been his fourth interception of the half, but Pool dropped it. The Bills had really good momentum on this drive; they should have scored a touch down, rather than settling for the field goal.
Even though Trent Edwards was starting to feel a bit more comfortable, there are still signs of inexperience and lack of confidence. The Bills running backs were all of their offensive productivity in that second quarter. On the defensive side for the Bills, McGee has had a good game against Braylon Edwards, and Marcus Stroud had been in Quinn's face several times. All-in-all, after 3 interceptions in the first half, the Bills only trail 13-10. I can only imagine the frustration of Coach Romeo Crennel of the Browns, having to witness such a terrible half from his opposition, and only being able to go up 3.
Browns opening possession could have started on a really high note with a big catch to Winslow, but it was called back because of an offensive pass interference call off the ball. Needless to say, they do nothing more with this drive. Trent Edwards starts off the second half OK for the Bills, with a 21-yard pass to rookie wide receiver Steve Johnson, primarily because he has about 10 minutes to make a decision. Bills offensive line had a great game, both protecting Trent Edwards and freeing up their running backs. Jackson makes a rare mistake on his next rush, as he has the ball punched out, and the Browns recover the fumble.
On the Browns next possession, we see flashes of skill out of Quinn. He gets a nice quarter back designed rush to build a little of that confidence. Braylon Edwards has a couple catches on this drive, including an easy pick-up to the Browns 22 yard line off a 3rd and 10 conversion with the Bills blitzing. Believe it or not, this is the Browns first third down conversion of the game. This decent Browns drive leads to a field goal.
Guess what the Bills answer with? That's right - a field goal of their own! Their field goal drive was made possible by the great running of Jackson and Lynch (again!), and another big run after catch off a screen play to Lynch. You can really tell how shaky Trent Edwards is feeling when he dumps these short passes to Lynch, and even those are off-target. At the Browns 14, the Bills had 3rd and 2, which they decide to go for a rushing play to Lynch. Finally the Browns defense stood up to Lynch, thus forcing the field goal. It's really quite remarkable, but without the brilliant play from Jackson, Lynch, and the Bills offensive line, this game would be out of reach for them. The Bills go into the fourth quarter down only 13-16 at this point.
Browns are not getting much out of Lewis, so they decide to give the ball to running back Jerome Harrison to start the fourth quarter. Harrison springs free after a huge block from Ali to open the hole for him. That hole springs him for a 72-yard touchdown run. It's kind of funny when you think about that 72-yard run, because the Browns had a total of 69 rushing yards for the three previous quarters. Now the Browns are up 23-13, and the Bills fans are getting pretty restless. Not only is it fucking freezing in those stands, but their team is choking against the Browns. To give you a better idea of how cold it is in the stands: the commentators, who have an enclosed booth (albeit the booth is comprised of lots of glass) are freezing in huge jackets and gloves.
Fear not, Buffalo, for corner back Leodis McKelvin is your new temporary hero. On the kick off directly after Harrison's big run, McKelvin runs it back for a touch down, which was made possible due to huge blocks from Spencer Johnson and Kirk Chambers of the Bills special teams. Kind of an interesting stat is that Trent Edwards holds the number two passer rating during the fourth quarter, in the NFL. So I suppose even though he has had an atrocious game so far, I should expect better things out of him. We'll see.
The Browns next drive is OK, with a decent pass play to Harrison down the right sideline, which helps the drive result in a field goal for the Browns. Now the Browns are back up by 6, at 26-20. One of the turning points in the fourth quarter came on the Browns next drive. Quinn attempts a pass that gets blocked at the line from line backer Kawika Mitchell, as he blitzed the center; the ball stayed in the air for about 10,000 years, until it finally came down and looked like free safety Ko Simpson had it cleanly for the interception. Browns smartly elect to challenge, because after looking at the replay, it was pretty obvious the ball hit the ground before h could get to it, so the Browns retain possession.
A bunch of boring stuff happens, Braylon Edwards (surprisingly) drops another easy ball for the Browns.
Bills get a nice punt return from Roscoe Parrish, and then a clutch catch from Johnson. Bills are making a game out of it with their play on this drive. Lynch has an absolutely huge play, blowing through the half-tackles four players off the Browns defense, and setting the Bills up at inside the 1 yard line. It sucks that Lynch did not take it in all the way - would have been nice to see him get the touchdown. They elect to go for the quarter back sneak, and they get the score!
It got so loud at the Bills' stadium that I doubt you could hear yourself fart. These Bills fans were going fucking wild - they did not want to see their Bills lose to the Browns, especially after going up 27-26 with 2:25 left in the game. Now the Browns get their chance to put the screws to the Bills, with 2:25 left in the game.
On the Browns drive, the Bills call a corner blitz, with defensive back Reggie Corner almost getting the sack but Quinn avoids him by stepping up in the pocket, and then delivering an awesome pass to Winslow. Winslow catches the ball in stride, and is able to get it out of bounds as he is drilled to the ground. Quinn's next pass, intended for Donte' Stallworth, should have been picked off by McKelvin to seal the game for the Bills, but it slipped out as he was making it to the ground. 3rd and 10 now for the Browns, and if you couldn't hear yourself fart before, now you can't hear yourself think - these Bills fans are fucking troopers. Browns decide they want to go for the big play out of Braylon Edwards, but he's once again well covered by McGee. McGee is quietly having the best game on the Bills defense. So now the Browns are left with a 56 yard field goal attempt.
56 yards is no joke, folks. For kicker Phil Dawson to come out here for the Browns on the road, trailing by 1, with less than 2 minutes left in the game and kick a 56-yard field would be epic. This is the sort of shit heroes are made out of, and Dawson gets on the field like it "ain't no thang" and easily drives the ball 65 yards right through those delicious uprights. As Scooby would say, "rut-roh" for the Bills and they amazing fans. It's most certainly worry time for the Bills, with only 1:39 left in the game and trailing by two.
Bills get nice field position at their own 44, which is already a good sign. After a clutch reception from Royal for a 22-yard gain, the fans go insane. My my my...the Bills could actually pull this off. Now they have the first down, in Browns territory, but still need to gain some yardage to bring it within a reasonable amount for their kicker Rian Lindell to send it home. Bills coaching staff decides to run the ball - three fucking times in a row - with Lynch picking up a total of 5 yards, to set it up for a 47-yard field goal attempt. Let's stop it right there for a second. Three rushing plays in a row? Believe me, I understand how poorly Trent Edwards was playing, but you still give him at least 1 pass attempt to try to make this a walk-in-the-park for Lindell. They could have even gone for a screen play to Lynch, which proved very successful earlier in the game, but instead they settle for the 5 yards on the ground.
I don't know about you, but I've never kicked a 47-yard field goal, with the game on the line, and it being freezing fucking cold outside (by this point the low 20s), and yet I still know 35 yards would feel a whole lot easier. But you know what - I don't get paid to make those decisions, so let's just assume the experts know what they are doing. Lindell comes out onto the field to attempt this 47-yard kick, and he just missed wide to the right. The kick is no good, and the Bills can pretty much forget about those dreams of the playoffs.
This could have easily been a 40 yard field goal attempt, and maybe it would have ended the same way, but as the coach you are tasked to do everything in your power to allow your team the best possibility to win. Leaving it up to just about pure luck with a 47 yard field goal is not how you fight for the playoffs. Then again, letting your starting quarter back throw 8 interceptions is the last 4 games is also not how you get into the playoffs. You either get in his fucking face, call different plays, fine him for every interceptions, or put in your back up quarterback. What you don't do is let shit get out of control, which is exactly how I define 8 interceptions in just 4 games. All that being said, even with how poorly Trent Edwards has been playing, he could have still made this a "W" in the win column for the Bills. I was absolutely shocked the Bills did not go for a pass play on that final series of downs, especially after Trent Edwards big completion to Royal.
Who I feel sorry for, after such a tough loss, are those fans. 73,000 fans came out in the blistering cold to watch their Bills take on the Browns. Sure, it being a Monday night game means it would be nationally covered, but I am sure there were plenty of other things these people could have gone to do. Instead, they either left work early or didn't go into work at all, just so they could watch their favorite team play a pretty talentless team in the Browns. Through it all, they couldn't even see their Bills pull it through. Neither team had really much going for them, with the exception of the fine play of the Bills running backs, and the occasional hard hits from the Browns defense. This is the sort of game where I don't consider the winner as the team which played first best, but rather, the winner was decided by which team played second worst.